Find Your Oasis in the Portland Pre-K Desert

By Ben Earle

Beautiful teacher and group of toddlers sitting on the floor drawing using paper and pencil around lots of toys at kindergarten

The possible closure of Portland’s largest preschool, Childswork Learning Center in Sunnyside serving 250 kids, alongside recent government and university studies indicating that all the state’s counties are becoming various levels of “child-care deserts,” only confirm what anyone with young children has long known – finding child care is a real challenge. And then COVID hit, making everything harder for parents and service providers.

Beyond the venerable word-of-mouth approach, fortunately, there are numerous resources to help locate a daycare or preschool program best suited for both your child’s and your needs.

  • Google Maps, MapQuest, and Yelp are always good places to see what might be available nearby.
  • Oregon’s Early Learning Division has teamed with Western Oregon University to compile a “Find Child Care Oregon” list of state registered and licensed programs, accessible online or by calling 211Info. Their websites provide step-by-step guides and helpful tips, plus links to a wide range of reports, research, and related info.
  • On “The Press” front, both the long-running Portland Parent Magazine and Oregon Live have decent online search tools.
  • Of the many listing sites a search for “preschools” or “daycare” in Portland reveals, the locally operated Growing Upwards pops up, along with the more generic Preschools, 12 Best Portland Preschools, Great Schools, Judy’s Book, Top Oregon Private Daycares and Preschools,, and, to name but a few. Checking Facebook, NextDoor, and even Craiglist’s “Daycare” section can sometimes also be helpful.
  • Though they fill up fast, Portland Public Schools offers some Pre-K classes, as does Portland Parks & Rec. And Head Start now has a couple of east-side locations.

Be sure to check as many sources as possible since no particular one can capture all available options. Just remember to stay diligent, patient, and positive – with a bit of luck, you’ll find a good spot for your special little one that’s cost-effective and within a reasonable striking distance!